Sure, we know that breathing is necessary to survival. But we seldom think about it. It doesn’t appear to be something we need to train in.
But breath can have an enormous impact on health.
For example, breathing and chewing can restructure our faces, expand our airways and help us overcome asthma and stress.
Some extreme breathing techniques can even help us experience hallucinations, or control our heart rate and body temperature.
Hence I’ll introduce to you the power of breathing which is seldom explored in Western science.
Below is what I’ll cover in this article to help you unlock the amazing power of breathing.
- Why is it more beneficial to breath through your nose than your mouth?
- Why is it important to breath out?
- How does slow and shallow breathing yield health benefits?
- How do extreme breathing techniques produce incredible effects?
- The power of breathing is the mainstream of ancient wisdom
- Final words: tips to calm yourself through breathing
Why is it More Beneficial to Breath Through Your Nose Than Your Mouth?
Some estimate that around 50 percent of us breathe mostly through our mouths, because of medical conditions, pollution, and even stress etc.
The thing is, the more you do it, the worse it gets.
In fact, our nose does far more than you think. It doesn’t just take air in, but also cleans it out, heats it and moistens it.
It induces the release of chemicals that lower blood pressure, regulate the heart rate and much more.
You get none of these benefits if you breathe through your mouth.
There was a cruel experiment in the 1970s and 1980s to show you the difference.
Egil P. Harvold, an orthodontist and researcher, took a group of rhesus monkeys and closed their nostrils up with plugs. He supervised them closely, taking pictures, for up to two years.
The photos show that the monkeys’ dental arches narrowed and their teeth grew crooked. Not only did it adversely affect their health, it affected the whole shape of their heads.
But when the plugs were eventually removed, their faces returned to normal in a matter of six months.
Why is It Important to Breath Out?
Breathing in is important, but so is breathing out.
In 1958, the East Orange Veterans Affairs Hospital in New Jersey made a special appointment. They employed Carl Stough, a choir director to look at a group of patients with emphysema – a debilitating, chronic lung disease.
Although he didn’t have training in medicine, Stough immediately diagnosed the problem. He found that the patients were taking short and rapid breaths, so the problem wasn’t inhaling because they were taking in enough air.
The problem was that they weren’t breathing out sufficiently.
Stough asked his patients to exhale properly and completely. The results surprised his medical colleagues.
In fact, what Stough harnessed was just the power of the diaphragm – the muscle underneath the lungs. It drops as we breathe in, expanding the lungs, and rises as we breathe out.
Under normal circumstances, we don’t always exercise the full capacity of the diaphragm.
Stough trained his patients to exercise their diaphragms in the right way. With his patients lying flat, he instructed them to breathe slowly, while he massaged and tapped various parts of the neck, chest and throat.
This helped them to expand their lung capacity so that they can access the parts of their lungs that were still healthy.
With this method, many patients became able to walk and talk again.
In conclusion, our lungs don’t simply get weaker with age. We can always boost their capacity by exercising them through sports activities such as walking and cycling.
How Does Slow and Shallow Breathing Yield Health Benefits?
Calm and slow breaths at the pace between 5.5 and 6 seconds can yield unexpected health benefits.
It can increase the flow of blood to the brain and improve efficiency throughout our bodies. In this regard, prayer can be good for your health.
Why is It Better to Breathe Like This?
When we inhale, the oxygen molecules in the air attach themselves to red blood cells, and are transported around the body to be used by our cells. They’re exchanged for carbon dioxide molecules, which return to the lungs and are exhaled.
But carbon dioxide is more than a waste product. It causes the oxygen to separate from the blood cells and helps dilate blood vessels, making them wider to transport more blood.
When we breathe heavily, we expel all of our carbon dioxide, reducing blood flow. This explains why exercise or panic can lead to headaches and light-headedness.
On the other hand, when you breathe slowly, you can leave more carbon dioxide in the body, which translates into more energy and efficiency.
Since we inhale far more air than we need, the risk of not breathing in enough oxygen is still extremely low, even if you’re breathing slowly.
The ideal breath is 5.5 seconds in, and 5.5 seconds out – amounting to 5.5 breaths per minute.
How do Extreme Breathing Techniques Produce Incredible Effects?
Extreme breathing techniques can produce incredible effects.
One of the best-known techniques is Tummo, meaning “inner fire”. This breathing method was invented by Tibetan Buddhists a millennium ago to take control over the body temperature.
Its practitioners can survive in the freezing heights of the Himalayas in thin clothing and melt the snow around their bodies with the heat.
A Dutch former mail carrier named Wim Hof achieved similar results. He became famous in the 2000s for running a half-marathon in the Arctic Circle without shoes or shirt.
How did Hof and the Tummo practitioners achieve all this? It is through a careful yet grueling training of heavy breathing that forces the body to react.
All that heavy breathing forces us into a state of stress. In that state, you can “hack” the autonomic nervous system which governs body functions beyond our conscious control.
Of course, these methods shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. However, they testify to the incredible effects that breathing can produce on our bodies.
The Power of Breathing is the Mainstream of Ancient Wisdom
The power of breathing is little known in the West, but elsewhere, it’s ancient wisdom.
In the Western science, exploration into the power of breathing is still in its infancy.
But it is the mainstream elsewhere, as Swami Rama and the practitioners of Tummo show.
The concept of breathing emerged 3000 years ago. The Chinese called it ch’i, and the Indians called it prana.
It’s a kind of energy or life force which is swirling around everything in the universe but mostly concentrated in things that are alive.
Traditional practices like acupuncture and yoga were invented as ways to keep the flow of prana steady – though the best way of all is simply to breathe it in.
The earliest texts we have that discuss yoga are the Yoga Sutras, from around 500 BCE. But the content is about keeping still to build up prana through breathing, instead of any movement.
Prana provides an explanation for the power of heavy breathing. For example, when building up an excess of prana suddenly, you can shock the body into extreme reactions like hallucinations.
Of course, you don’t have to practice any extreme method to harness the power of breathing. All you need to do is breath in for 5.5 seconds, out for 5.5 seconds and repeat the process.
Final Words: Tips to Calm Yourself Through Breathing
It’s not difficult to harness the power of breathing. Simply by breathing through your nose, slowly and not too deeply, and properly engaging your diaphragm, you can reap the health benefits.
And if you don’t have time for meditation or yoga, you can simply calm yourself by thinking about your breathing. For five to ten minutes every day, take some gentle breaths lasting 5.5 seconds, in and out.